Well, hello there – and Happy New Year. I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas.
This time last year I was just introducing myself as a newcomer to Accelerate. By now I understand that many of our followers enjoy catching up with my antics, sometimes learning bits and pieces along the way (even if it is at my expense half the time). Back then I was coming out of 2011, with injury and Christmas bloat to deal with. Slowly, but surely – I fought the flab, put in the effort, and gained the strength that had for so long been absent.
Now in 2013 – after a year of personal bests and longer runs than I’d ever previously considered, I find myself coming out of 2012 with injury and Christmas bloat.
Like the glorious Butterfly who turned into a Caterpillar, I can at least draw upon last year for some guidance. I have a list of events to choose from and plenty of opportunity (living right at the entrance to Rivelin Valley), to get out and train effectively for all of them. I just need to get serious. Discipline – that’s the name of the game.
So, with that established – there really was no finer time for me to join the Dark Peak Fell Runners Club, and start attending regular training sessions, and enjoy the social side of running. Not to mention chipping in membership fee after several members already gave me lifts home during 2012. (Ta).
Membership fee transferred, I’m soon to busy Wednesday evenings at the very least. The Gritstone Series 2013 is sure to feature on my race calendar, as is the usual High Peak 40, and new addition, Round Rotherham 50. As for the rest of the year, I think it’ll be another Sheffield Half Marathon – the latest in a long line of attempts to smash my 90min PB (seriously – need to scratch that itch).
As for the last month, well…..lazy – my running reduced from several runs a week, to one every fortnight or so. Not enough to maintain fitness levels, but at least a rest, which allowed my foot to calm down after having spanked a nerve in my heel for the entire Clowne Half Marathon. Since that race at the end of November, I’ve taken part in a couple of our Head Torch Runs, which were fun (mainly ’cause they were slow and not too long, letting me use my off-road shoes that never bother my feet at all), and a quick trip out just after Christmas – which I shall describe in more detail:
Boxing Day Bog Trot – an unofficial race meet with Dark Peak Fell Runners. I say ‘unofficial’ since at the time I tagged along, I wasn’t a signed up member of the club, and went on the invitation from Stu and Debs (after a little bit of peer pressure vs procrastinating throughout 2012 despite the desire to get involved). There is no better way to reduce self esteem than to try your hand at a ‘bog trot’ with another 30 or so runners who practice on a regular basis. Factor in some navigation skills, essential for reaching the required grid references along a pre-determined course, and you’ve either spent a valuable hour among friends as you hone your skills together, or reduced yourself to a shivering soaking wreck – who’s lucky if he knows where he’s just been, much less how he made it back alive.
We reached the lay-by next to Ox Stones, on the border between Sheffield and the Peak National Park. I’d never been to Ox Stones before, though I’d heard about them, and driven past several times before while returning home from Burbage Moor (a regular haunt for dog walking, head torch running, climbing etc). I’d been looking forward to some exercise. Chocolates, mince pies and numerous Christmas dinners had convinced me it was time to act. Besides, I had my shiny new Montane Featherlite Marathon Jacket, given to me the day before, and I was dying to test it out on the moor. Keenly, I bound toward the start position, right next to the stones, and prepared my bits and pieces. I had a map, generously supplied by debs, already laminated, all checkpoints marked with a sharpie pen. I also had a little bit of paper with boxes printed across it, numbered in order for me to clip each box in sequence. As I reached the checkpoints and found the needle punches (all of which are different to ensure you don’t just punch the lot and head back), I would have to navigate across open moorland in freezing winds and try not to disappear into any peat bogs.
If I was unsure – I was to follow Kevin (Tom’s dad), since he knew where he was going, and was ‘slow’ enough that I’d stay with him alright.
We set off and everyone flew across that moor, toward Burbage Edge – like there was a Bear chasing us. I stumbled, tripped, slid and sank at any/every opportunity. My feet – immediately wet, went numb from cold before I’d cooked up enough temperature to prevent them. I was gripping my sheets of paper so tight, that my forearms hurt more than my feet, and the legs were turning to rubber before I’d travelled 100 meters. Ouch. On it went, slip, trip, jump, splash, trip – with the odd turn of the ankle, as we all hurtled across the bog in search of a little white flag we knew should be there if we could tell which part of the map this puddle of mud corresponded to. Kevin is history – gone. Nice one.
After a steady plod, sheepishly following everyone else and not really looking at the map until reaching the first checkpoint, I punch the first box and head over the edge into Burbage Valley. We all crossed the stream, and climb the opposite side toward Higger Tor. I went too far before realising the next checkpoint is behind it, and there’s no need to do all that much climbing, then I fumble around looking for the punch – which turns up at the opposite end of the enclosure I reached 10mins ago. A few more runners pass me by and off we go back to the bottom of the valley. Up the other side AGAIN, into a quarry at the southern end, but it’s the wrong one, so round I go until I find the correct one.
At this point all hope of a respectable finish time seems lost, but I’m beginning to enjoy the feeling that I’m on my way back at least. I descend toward the forest in the valley floor, and decide that to go around is a waste of effort, and that to head straight for the next punch, directly through the woods is the smart thing to do. After clambering through a deep gully – into the woods, I discover that it’s the boggiest area of the entire route, and escape immediately. Soon as I’m clear of the difficult ground I slip and roll over, soaking myself from head to toe in wet reeds and grass (???). Debs yells hello from a short distance, and I wonder how she appeared at that exact moment, worried she’s seen my embarrassing tumble (does she have a secret network of tunnels like the Vietcong?). Finally reaching the final stretch, we’re all supposed to locate a pond, right in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by numerous puddles. Puddle/pond, pond/puddle – I do my best and to my surprise actually land right on top of the thing, only to find that the flag’s been planted at the puddle to the left of where it should have been (largely due to the sterling effort of the race organiser, setting up in thick fog the night before – AKA Christmas Day!), I can hardly complain.
Upon reaching the finish, back where we started. I hand in my papier mache punch card, and slowly make my way back to the car.
Final thought – “I have to get better at this”. Running through Heather and bog takes a lot more stamina than I expected, and I expected it to be a test. Still, I finally joined a running club….and in any case, my jacket worked a treat, very easy to run around without overheating, and the wind couldn’t cut through whatsoever – fantastic.